Sunday, August 26, 2007

In Defense of Summer Vacation

Witnessing colleagues growing reluctance to take earned vacation time, I read with great interest a recent article in the WSJ titled, "Vacation Deflation: Breaks Get Shorter" highlighting a growing trend among US workers:

- 35% do not use their annual allotment of earned vacation days
- 14% of full time employees take 2 weeks vacation
- More employees are opting for long weekends and forgoing one week vacations all together
- Dual income households find it harder and harder to coordinate time-off

Whatever pressures today's worker are subject to (leaner workforce, always-on connectivity, internal/external competition, etc), having just returned from a one week vacation, I can tell you unequivocally me, my family and yes, my employer, have all benefited from my brief sabbatical.

Making it a point not to check email, voice mail, cell phone, internet, IM, etc, I was able to truly disconnect from the daily pressures of the job, and focus intently on my vacation goal: rest and relaxation. Having indulged in 9 straight days (yes, I'm counting bookend weekends) of uninterrupted fun, exercise, exploration and reflection I now feel refreshed and re-juvinated and look forward to returning to work and a job I truly love.

While I know my absence required others to pick up some chores and shoulder some decisions that I would normally make, I left the workplace one week ago knowing I had done the same for others earlier this summer. Having earned this "currency" among my peers, I felt no qualms about asking them to now reciprocate.

Not only am I an advocate for the rejuvinating benefits of earned vacation, but I also believe it is important for organizations to expect employees to take a break an d prepare for it. Show me an employee who is "unable" to schedule a week away from the office and I'll show you someone who probably has been ineffective in executing their respective goals/plans for the year and has not invested in an internal peer network and support mechanism that promotes their ability to get some well earned time off.

For managers, if I am unable to leave the workplace for a week, and have confidence that the team I have built/led is able to support the business without me, then I probably haven't done a very good job managing my team the other 349 days of the year.

So, work hard, build some currency with peers and consciously create your support network throughout the year and if you"re lucky, you'll have (at least) a week of fabulous weather and memories that will keep you as pumped as I am about the next 51 weeks.

Can't wait for my next vacation....